> The Beginning of the Palmach

The Palmach and Dissident Organizations

The Palmach, a mobilized extension of the Hagana organization, which was subordinated to the authority of the elected institutions of the Jewish Yishuv and the Zionist movement, was incited against the underground force organizations, the Etzel and Lechi, who opposed the institutional authority and were therefore named "The Dissidenters."

The Palmach, a mobilized extension of the Hagana organization, which was subordinated to the authority of the elected institutions of the Jewish Yishuv and the Zionist movement, was incited against the underground force organizations, the Etzel and Lechi, who opposed the institutional authority and were therefore named "The Dissidenters." The Etzel and Lechi terror operations against British targets (men, equipment and facilities) threatened the status of the elected Jewish leadership, the maintaining of a proper democratic order, and especially the likelihood for political contacts with the British. In order to remove the threat, the leadership instructed the Hagana HQ to cease all organizational activity. This order was repeated a number of times and was called Saizon ("Hunting Season" in French.) Palmach units as well as other Hagana units took part in the following training periods:
1) In the summerfall of 1941 and in early 1942, some Palmach units collaborated with Shai (Intelligence Service of the Hagana) members against the "Stern Group" which changed its name in 1943 to "Lohamei Herut Israel" - Lechi (Fighters for the Freedom of Israel) because of its attempts to raise funds and harm British soldiers. A few organization members were kidnapped, some delivered to the British and others released after investigation and warning. The Palmach HQ was not in command of the operation.
2) From November 1944 March 1945, 200-500 Palmach members were active under its commandership and later on under a special branch for tracing, spying and arrest of senior Etzel members as well as preventing the hanging of propaganda posters and forced fundraising. During this operation, organization members were caught, held captive in farmsteads, interrogated and sometimes even tortured. The Palmach members voluntarily participated in the Saizon. Most of them firmly opposed the handing over to the British on one hand, but denounced the institutions' decision (taken under the opposition of large circles within the Yishuv) to stop the Saizon before the Etzel was destroyed.
3) June -December 1947 Tens of Palmach and Hagana members operated under the command of a special branch for the exposure and prevention of Etzel operations, via intelligence, violent harassment of commanders, raids on ammunition caches, interference in executing operations, etc. The operation was deemed a success and reduced the organization's activity.
4) During the War of Independence, Defense Minister David Ben-Gurion ordered Palmach and Hagana units to:
A: Prevent the Etzel from unloading the arms from the "Altalena" ship into its caches on the shores of Kfar-Vitkin and Tel-Aviv (June 20-24).
B: Disarm the Etzel and Lechi arms in Jerusalem after the assassination of UN diplomat, Count Folke Bernadotte (September 1948).
In the end of 1943, the Etzel and Lechi founded the "Am-Lochem" (Fighting Nation) as a collective underground organization. Palmach members were involved in it for a short while (especially one of the platoons of Company 6). This initiative was thwarted by the Hagana HQ, which forbade its members to participate in it and ran an efficient information system.
Between October 1945 and July 1946, the Jewish Resistance Movement coordinated between Hagana and Etzel and Lechi operations against the British. The resistance movement appropriated military operations to each organization, which were not joint operations. The movement was dismantled following the Etzel operation at the King David Hotel in Jerusalem in July 1946.
The hostile relationship between the Palmach and the organizations stemmed from ideological, social and organizational differences. The conflicts between them raised harsh public criticism that continues to this day among historians and underground movement veterans.



Information Archive
The Beginning of the Palmach
Struggle against the British
The War of Independence
Dismantling of the Palmach
Palmach and the Settlements
The Palmach's Military Thinking
Units and Organizational Structure
Female Palmach Members
Culture and Folklore
Palmach Contribution and Legacy